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Newsmakers

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China 19, United States 8, Copenhagen 6, U.s. 3, India 3, Us 3, Kyoto 2, Commills 1, Apec 1, Jimmy Carter 1, Rasmussen 1, Kolb Hagan 1, Fassel 1, U.n. 1, Soler 1, The Nation 1, Peross D.c. 1, Trons 1, New Mexico 1, Washington 1,
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  CSPAN    Newsmakers    News/Business. Media  
   personalities discuss current issues.  

    November 29, 2009
    6:00 - 6:30pm EST  

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the australian national universities examine china's relations with the u.s., and that country's policies on climate change. like monday at 9:00 a.m. eastern on c-span to. . .
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announced that president obama is going to copenhagen to try to get a jump-start to these negotiations. given that the white house has yet to act on climate skhange there's bitter partisan opposition, what kind of inroads do you think the with the can make? >> i think the intent is first to show the united states is very serious about the energy and climate issue, number one. number two, copenhagen, as president rasmussen has said, since congress won't be able to address the energy and climate bill until after copenhagen that it's a framework for all countries -- let me say that he
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proposed you expect going in, a framework that will say this is our goal, this is going to be towards a lelie binding treaty. we're not going to get there in copenhagen but this is the step we need to take in order to get there. the good news is there's a lot of motion going on and i am encouraged that a lot of countries are beginning to say, considering where we were five years ago and beyond, things are looking very positive. >> mr. secretary, the white house on wednesday also announced that it would offer a 20/20 emissions cut proposal 17% below 2005 levels. and described this proposal as a
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provisional proposal, earlyly contingent on congress enacting this legislation. what happens if the congress doesn't enact legislation? >> well, i'm not sure i remember what they said, a specific number. i think they said they were expecting to propose a -- it probably -- my guess would be a range but i don't recall seeing a specific number being discussed. >> but if there is no legislation, are the administrative actions such as the e.p.a. rule makings, the cafe proposal and other actions such as the efficiency investments and the stimulus bill -- are they sufficient, do you think, to reassure our foreign partners that the us is taking firm action? >> all the things you mention are things that we are doing, but in addition to that we want
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a comprehensive energy bill. the president has made it quite clear that also includes a cap on carbon and both shorter term and long-term goals. so we are still pushing for those goals. the exact number i think is for grabs. we see a range that the house has said -- in the bill that came out of the kerry-boxer was 20%. it's going to be some range of something. that's a have been important part of it in my mind, because that sends a long-term signal. all the things we're doing on the recovery act to promote clean energy -- all the things we're doing on the cafe standards, all those things are part of the complete package. all the things we're going --
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doing on retro fitting and energy. but you also need to send a long-term message to a company, if you're thinking of investigating in a power plant, it could be a billion dollars to $10 billion. that signal, what's going to be happening in 20, 30 or 40 years will deeply affect those decisions. having said that, the president has made it quite clear that we have to be sensitive to certain sections of the united states. you have to give time. you can't move to a highly energy efficient green economy overnight. it takes time. but the long-term signal is very important. quite frankly, there's a lot of capital right now standing on the sidelines wanting to know
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what's the signal. once congress says, ok, this is going to be it, working with the president, i think a lot of investments will be made. >> secretary, you visited india recently? >> hug um. >> and you -- uh-huh. >> and you visited china sflenal one of the big criticisms that is heard in congress among republicans is that we can't solve the climate issue alone, that we have to have commitments from these countries. what's your sense of where china or india is going in terms of actually reductions in greenhouse gas? carbon dioxide for burning fassel fuels? >> i will agree -- if you look at -- for example in the united states and china, where over 40% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the world today. so we need both the developed
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countries and the developing countries to say we're all in this together. of course, nobody expects a developing country to decrease their carbon emissions or do things that a developed country has the capability of doing. so the language in the u.n. is manage. if i look at what china is doing, i've seen a sea change over the last year or two. i recall that was a -- there was a release of a report that i had co-chairpersonned on sustainable energy that was sponsored by the inner academy council and i had the pleasure of talking to the premier of china about this about two and a half years ago. they were pushing energy efficiency but there was no direct mention of climate change. we were talking about these
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issues. two years later i go back, have another extended conversation with the premier and the vice premier and i'm hearing something different that. climate change, if we continue business as usual, would be devastating to china and the rest of the word. now we're going to be pushing energy efficiency. we have to diversify. the carbon growth in cloyne is unsustainable and so they are pushing hard to get 15% of their energy renewable, a push hard to close down their least efficient coal plants and are constructing the most efficient ones. they're pushing hard on energy efficiency. if you look at the things china is doing in the last year it's incredibly impressive. why are they doing this? two reasons. climate change is going to be bad for china and the rest of
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the world. even number one, if this they say as an economic opportunity for china. there's an official tally of high technology manufacturing from china. aerospace, pharmaceuticals, electronic. china has passed europe and the united states in leading high technology manufacturing from the last couple of years. they see a transition to a green energy economy, developing solar, wind, as something where they want to be the world leader. so they're pushing because they see an credible economic opportunity. now, this is where china is going. this is where a lot of european countries have gone in the past. china is being very aggressive about it. they are now leading the world in high voltage electricity transmission over long distances. >> do you sense that china will
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commit to some sort of carbon reductions? >> i don't know but i would hope yes. if you look at what they're doing internally. right now their current five-year plan is to increase -- better their energy intensity so as their g.d.p. grows their use of energy will be decreasing by 20%. that's this five-year plan. another five-year plan, again a very aggressive schedule, but now they're talking for the following five-year plan as saying it will be a carbon emission to g.d.p. now, why is that significant in because they're pushing very heavily on hide ro, renewable, like wind and solar and nuclear. if you just take what they're already saying about where they want to go on noncarbon sources of energy plus energy efficiency, you're looking at perhaps 24% decrease in the
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amount of carbon emissions per g.d.p. there was a committee that recommended somewhere between 4% and 5% to the government. 5% is a very important number because if that compounds annually that means a 27% decrease in carbon monoxide for g.d.p. eventually in the next couple of decades china's growth is going to start to level off. they will be easing into a developed economy. a lot of their infrastructure will be maturing. you don't expect china's growth to be growing at 8% forever. it's going to have to level off to a growth of 3% or 4%. so once you get that and you still have this carbon dioxide to g.d.p. thing, that means they just put themselves in a
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trajectory that says it's going to cap and decline. but these are the issues that they're now thinking very hard about. but i see my major role as saying how can the department of energy, number one, help the united states become economically competitive in this future clean-emergency economy? and number two, if we can get partnerships with china, with india, that would be murebly beneficial to both of us it will help each other. instead of worrying about numbers and things we have to get moving. the numbers are important but we certainly have to get moving. it's just like the cafe standard. that's getting moving. we don't want it to stop at 35 1/2 miles per hour. we want to continue. >> what number for carbon -- a
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target from china would expect -- impress you? we might expect them to make an announcement any day now. what number would impress you? >> i would have to go back and look at the details, but if i took their already stated energy intensity target and their already stated goals on where they want to be in terms of nuclear energy, wind, hide ro, sole -- soler, all those things. anything that wrapped all those together and said we'll be at least there. anything north of that point -- because these are pretty aggressive levels -- would be quite a commitment. >> the administration i know is somewhat concerned that not to repeat what they call the mistake of kyoto. of course the climate talks in 1997 that produced a commitment
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to reducing emissions among developed countries. the united states never signed, that never ratified that and the bush administration basically walked away from it. can you get some assurance that whatever commitment or promise or goal that the president makes at copenhagen won't also never be ratified, never be approved by congress, because congressional debate about climate change is extremely intense at this time. there's no indication that you would have the 60 votes in the senate that would be required to pass legislation. how concerned are you about that? >> well, looking at what, for example, prime minister rass moussing is now saying. what can we expect of the kolb hail -- copenhagen framework, a path forward?
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>> you're jumping to kind of the end of the beginning point, this -- which is the beginning of a treaty, verification and all these other things. but in the end, i think, right now what the prime minister is saying is we're not going to expect by the time of kolb hagan to have a treaty that then the countries go back to their respective slurs and say, ok, -- legislatures, but a path forward. in the end, if you look at the experience of kyoto, where there was treaty terms that were hammered out. several countries did meet their commitments. others which did ratify did not meet anywhere commitments. some because of unforeseen financial issues. and so in the end -- a treaty is
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a beginning and then you to have follow through. so i think you have to look at all these things. so what we're now saying is what the prime minister is saying in the apec conference and what i think the world is beginning to realize. we have to get going, we have to get going as aggressively as you can. the treaty is an important point in this but to me it's -- certainly it's a beginning. then you have to execute on that and every country has to then say we've got to start decreasing our unsustained growth in carbon emissions. in is the united states, because we are a developed country, because we have incredible technical capability, i think we
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can show leadership. >> mr. secretary, if i can change gears slightly. both the president and you on a number of occasions has said that nuclear power has to be part of the solution to climate change. but also the administration has made it very clear that the yucca mountain nuclear waist repository is a dead ladder. you have nuclear waste from power generation piling up at the nation's 110-plus nuclear stations. you also have huge amounts of high-level waste at hahn ford and the other -- hanford and the other nuclear weapon sites. you also have contract yull agreements to take this waste of
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the nuclear plant waste and the high-level waste. how are you going to avoid exposing u.s. taxpayers from late from power companies from the states where these waste sites are located who have a legitimate legal argument that the u.s. is not living up to its obligations? >> first let's talk about the waste. the arce has said that dry storage at current sites is going to be safe. for an extended period of time, 50 years, maybe beyond. so one could say, all right, if we guarantee that the dry cast storage at these sights -- sites. i think might be shrinking a little bit, but if it's going to be safe environmentally and also
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for security reasons, that gives us some time to re-examine thoughtfully how to go forward in a comprehensive way to deal with the waste problem, the low level, the high-level waste problem. now, a lot has happened since the nuclear waste act, both on the technical level, on the supreme court rulings, a lot of things. and so this is the major reason why we're asking a blue room panel -- it's in the last stages -- hopefully soon it will be announced. to step back and say take a look. what do you see coming on the horizon in the next 50 years in terms of nuclear technology? as an example, we have a policy in the united states that started with jimmy carter that you take the fuel, you use it
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once recycled and after that, it's no longer to be recycled. the trouble with that means that you are extracting less than one -- 1% of the energy content. which means also you're making a lot of waste. and there's a lot of depleted uranium. some technologies are coming forward where it's highly conceivable in a very cost effective way, where you can start taking the completed uranium and striking much more of the energy content. also that we could be using knew trons, a number of other things to reduce, to attract more of the energy and to reduce the amount of waste. not by a factor two but maybe a factor five or 10. that means what we should consider is waste that has been
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preowned, preused and could be cycled. it also would require different characterization. because that would mean you couldn't use storage that you could recycle back. but once you do this you don't haven't -- want to have access to it again. one repository would be for 100 years and the other would last forever. which would then open up better, geological sites. so we want this blue level panel to stem back and make some reasonable assumptions of what we know today and then look at different times of gee logical sites for what you might think. not to pick a site, but just different classes. whether they're the top on a mountain, whether they're the
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salt, clay-like. so this is a way that you can go forward in a much more scientific rational way. the one-size-fits-all site that was chosen years ago is not the ideal site because for the very longest term storage, we don't really know over a million years what happens. >> mr. secretary, no state wants a nuclear waste site in their state. do you envision at some point someone has to decide that even though you were talking about reprocessing -- and that in itself is somewhat controversial because one of the things produced in reprocessing is plutonium and there are nonproliferation risks. do you feel that reprocessing can develop where it is not a nonproliferation risk with
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plutonium and secondly, how do you envision the political battles down the road for the waste? >> in regard to your first demeant no state wants waste. well, the folks -- we have a low level radioactive waste peross d.c. -- repository in new mexico. the local areas around are very, very happy with this. it's been exquisitely safe. it's essentially a mining industry. the environmental concerns have been eased. it's been done so carefully, so responsely that everyone around there is very happy. it's not an automatic that no state will take this. if you show you can do this in a completely environmentally safe and protective way, it's not a given that certain states might not want it. in regard to the proliferation issue, i think you hit a very
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important point. the countries that are now reprocessing use a modified version of a process the united states invented in the 1950's. it takes out of the spent fuel that creates a stream of plutonium and plutonium ox side. once you create a stream of plutonium, if gotten into the wrong hands would make an atomic bond. what you need to do so make it -- to make it proliferation resistant is to say that just by hijacking some of the reprocessed material, you can't now have the participates. one possibility, you want to dope it with things that are heavy neutron emet -- emitters so it fizzles. you actually want to dope it with very hot radioactive things
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so that unless you had very sophisticated remote glove box arguments, you'd be killed. we call that self-protecting and a number of other ideas is that just the hijacking of the shipment of the fuel from one place to another -- there is an important part. so the department of energy wants to.com prolive occasion resistant methods. >> i think we have time for one last chemical weapon. >> mr. secretary, a year ago you were plucked from a prestigious business and economic career and plunged into the political morass that is washington. what has surprised thank you most or what -- what lesson has been the most valuable for you in terms of negotiating the politics that programs weren't
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so evident in your former life? i mean, for example, as a scientist, when you con item plate the climate change issue, that has to be frustrating to hear the political arguments. >> well, it depends. for example, i think -- first -- the reason i'm doing this is because i care so deeply about it, number one. and number two, that the united states can lead a way to a solution to the energy climate problem and that a solution is possible. and that if, whatever i can do to get us toward those solutions that would be worth anything -- the good news is -- i've been told by members of congress from both sides of the yile that they don't -- aisle that they don't treat me like the normal person
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who's in the cabinet. i try to answer quells. i come in and we try to talk about what do we snow? what does science tell us about this? what do we know about what might be possible, and i hope i come across not overselling but this is possible, this is hard, this is unclick -- unlikely. this is unlikely to occur five or 10 years from now. this is -- we have a good shot at it. and also to open up things where, because of my connections in the research community and because i'm a techy. i like to know what's going on and what's going on in the minds of the most innovative companies and universities that i can give them a glimpse of what might be possible. this is good because it makes it seem like we don't, you know, some people say we can't do there. it's impossible. it would require a miracle.
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i say well, not really. but it's going to be lard but it's possible. and so what i like about this is -- now there are certain people who just decide they're not going to come around and that's life. i'm not so wildly optimistic that i think i can convince everybody. but a large, actually bipartisan group, are willing to listen and they can sit with their statue and research what i said and that's great. so as we continue to do this, they can build -- say, ok, here's someone who knows something technical about some of these issues. but i go back to the final thing. it's not only possible. first, we have to do it because of the climate issue, but it's an incredible opportunity. this is our lead to lose. why should we cede high-tech
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manufacturing anywhere in the world? this transition to a clean energy, which is essentially a new industrial revolution. the first one gave us all the energy we want and a way to create unimaginable wealth. now we've learned we can't do this without some sustainability, which inincludes carbon emission. now we have to get the energy we're used to but in a much cleaner way. that's going to require a rebuilding of existing infrastructure and requires incredible intellectual ingenuity and invention. it's going to create a lot of jobs for a long time because it teams -- means you have to transition entire industries and commills. this is great. and it's a high technology